Thursday, August 25, 2005


I know, I know – the Soxblog audience doesn’t read the left wing blogs and generally hates when I talk about them. But here’s why they’re important: They’re leading the Democratic party into an abyss where it stands for nothing, where it is simply an amalgamation of special interests and angry people who have nothing in common but the fact that they don’t like Republicans.

It’s not all the blogs’ fault, of course. Even the party’s deep thinkers (such as they are) have long realized that the Donkey needs to be “re-branded.” Surely all of you know by now that the Democrats have solicited some of George Lakoff’s twaddle in an effort to better peddle their product, whatever it may be.

The problem is, there’s no there there. There isn’t a product. The Democrats as a united party don’t have any core beliefs beyond some tired platitudes about the need to be “progressive.” And when you attempt to re-brand without knowing what product you’re re-branding, well, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Take the Democrats’ desperate efforts to improve their image on security issues. It’s long been no secret that the country is a little wary in trusting such an important matter as national security to the Democrats in perilous times. So the Democrats know that basically they have to “butch up.” Unfortunately, going all jubilant about Joan Baez serenading a bunch of peaceniks in Crawford doesn’t exactly provide a reassuring image of strength.

But, alas, the Democratic re-branders are on top of things. And here’s what they’ve come up with:

That’s right, certain Democratic re-branders have decided the best way to enhance the party’s image is to crow about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Talk about tasteless. Talk about obtuse. One can only imagine the protest and outcry if Republican boosters ever opted to engage in such crass triumphal behavior. And the fact that this image is being circulated so close to the 60th anniversary of these events…honestly, the mind reels at the stupidity of it all. While dropping the bombs was necessary and proper, they did kill over 100,000 innocent people. This is nothing to politicize in any form, let alone in a jesting manner.

And yet this little image has won the approving nod of prominent left-wing blogger and George Soros employee Oliver Willis. So this is your modern left – devoid of values and any reliably active sense of decency.

Fortunately Willis and his ilk are politically tone deaf. And even more fortuitously for the Republican party and its interests, they’re also apparently dumb as a post.

And yet they are the ones leading the Democratic party, the ones that leading Democratic politicians kow-tow to, hold conference calls with, and seek the advice of. The Democratic party is now officially rudder-less. And all of George Lakoff’s rhetoric won’t be able to obscure that uncomfortable fact.Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


As many of you have noted, I’m not a huge fan of Bill Weld – few Massachusetts Republicans from the early 1990’s are. For those of you who are curious why, it’s because Weld wasn’t a team player. Weld operated in politics to satisfy his own ambitions and was at best indifferent to the fate of the rest of his party and thus his “agenda” as well (or what little there was of it). Without going into a lengthy exposition on the narcissism of William Weld, let me just say I’m not an admirer and the Soxblog checkbook will not be opening in order to support his quixotic quest to defeat Elliot Spitzer in New York.

I offer that as a preamble to prove my unbiased bona fides before making the following prediction – that quixotic quest will be successful. Bill Weld will defeat Elliot Spitzer in New York.

In spite of his many personal failings, Bill Weld is a great politician. He is also very smart, not phony smart like John Kerry but the real deal – a genuinely brilliant guy. Weld is likely running because he alone perceives the dynamic by which he can win.

While Weld was mostly as unprincipled a politician as you could find, he did amass a solid record in two areas: He ardently opposed taxes and he ardently supported progressive social issues. In a gubernatorial race in a liberal state like New York, both of those things will stand him in good stead.

First, the anti-tax thing. Weld ran in 1990 promising never to raise taxes of any sort. It was a promise he kept. He was an absolutist on this issue, and it endeared him to individuals and businesses alike. Weld understood that no one likes state taxes. Local taxes pay for good things like cops, firemen, teachers and filling potholes. National taxes pay for good things like a capable military, super-colliders, ethanol research and hardly ever closing a military base whether it’s useful or not.

But what to do state taxes do? In the minds of most voters, nothing. Please, I know this is an over-simplification so spare me the indignant emails. But the point is, most people feel the really important stuff is paid for by other portions of the Governmental Hydra. And there’s more than a little truth in that.

And Weld has always been way ahead of the national curve on social issues. Hell, the man has even officiated a gay marriage. Let’s see Elliot Spitzer top that. He’s unflinchingly pro-choice, and pretty much a real-deal libertarian. Lots of politicians say they’re libertarians, Weld really is. This will be an attractive thing in a liberal state like New York.

Weld is likely running because he sees a dynamic shaping up that will allow him to prevail. Just as was the case in Massachusetts, Weld knows that his social issues stance will annoy conservatives but they’ll vote for him anyway. What else are they going to do? Vote for Spitzer? And he also knows that even most liberals hate taxes, especially when they’re overtaxed as New Yorkers chronically are.

And lastly Weld understands something about his likely opponent – Elliot Spitzer is a little bit creepy. There’s something about his headline chasing and Javert-like intensity that will likely unnerve the electorate in a high profile and competitive race.

And Weld will make it a high profile race because he’ll be able to raise the requisite funds to do so like rolling off a log. He’s got a thick rolodex, and the Spitzer haters are likely to offer lavish support for the big red-head’s quest.

New Yorkers, please be cognizant that this is what things have come to: Not only do the Red Sox now dominate the Yankees, soon you’ll be electing our hand-me-down as Governor. What greater proof could there be of Boston’s primacy?

Dukakis in 2010!

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Friday, August 19, 2005


Just some random thoughts as I enter Day 6 of my vigil waiting to hear from Bob Brigham’s team of attorneys.

1) The Hagel Caucus has decided that it is time to cut and run from Iraq. How this will play with the Nebraska Narcissist’s longtime partner in maverickness, the reliably hawkish John McCain, remains to be determined. Whatever the case, Hagel’s gutsy straying from the reservation is winning him a bunch of plaudits from the left wing blogs. While I’m sure that must be gratifying, perhaps the Oval Office seeking Senator miscalculates – I personally don’t think the left wing blogs will have all that much influence on the Republican primary race.

UPDATE: This just in on Hagel. Expanding his obtuseness from Iraq to neighboring Iran, Hagel has called on the United States to begin talks with the new Iranian regime and dismissed “talk of a military option against Tehran as an empty and foolish threat.” It’s hard to see how Hagel would surmise that assuring the Mad Mullahs that they face no danger from America would be in our nation’s best interests, but the ploy did get Hagel’s name in the paper.

But at this point, let’s face it, Chuck Hagel doing anything to garner himself a slice of publicity officially qualifies as a dog-bites-man story. But what really got me about the Reuters report was that writer Alan Elsner referred to Hagel as a “foreign policy expert.”

Huh? What am I missing? Hagel a foreign policy expert? Yes, he has a bunch of opinions, but in order to qualify as an expert you’d think at least a handful of those opinions would have had to have been proven accurate.

Publicity expert? No doubt. Foreign policy expert? No way.

2) But one Senator may not have miscalculated. The day before Hagel arrived at his epiphany, Russ Feingold also demanded that it’s time to get out of Iraq. To say this stance had a salubrious effect on his standings in the left wing fever swamps would understate things quite a bit.

First of all, you should understand that even before his announcement Feingold was something of a left wing netroots favorite. Even before his pronouncement, in polling amongst the netroots Feingold was basically in a statistical dead heat with the Senator from New York, trailing her by only two points. But within 24 hours of his announcement that it was time to turn-tail and give Iraq to the Jihadis (excuse me – I meant to say, “declared that he supported a timeline with fixed dates and a real plan for withdrawal”) Feingold surged to a 53 – 25 lead over the former first lady.

Remember the Deaniacs? Don’t be surprised if they come back as Feingoldiacs. And since Feingold is actually emotionally balanced unlike the Vermonter, he may well be more formidable.

3) Terrorists attacked the U.S.S. Ashland while it was docked in Jordan earlier today. Thanks to characteristic terrorist incompetence, the attack failed, but that should be no reason for complacency. This should be a huge story – terrorists still want to kill Americans and are making concrete efforts to do so. But because the attack failed, will the mainstream media even mention it on their front pages tomorrow? I’m guessing no.

But I will say this: The war goes on. Today wasn’t a defeat but it might well have been. One can only wonder how the cut-and-run caucus would have responded to such a thing.

4) Bill Weld is returning to politics, ready to take on Elliot Spitzer as he seeks the governorship of New York. Aaah, Bill Weld. There’s a name that brings back memories for Bay Staters. Weld got himself re-elected as governor of Massachusetts in 1994 and then promptly began running for Senate against the intellectually gifted John Kerry in ’96. He lost that race (one in which it was frequently joked that all local Democratic activists voted for the Republican and all local Republican activists voted for the Democrat since both men were so disliked by those who knew them best), so he got himself appointed Ambassador to Mexico but in the Senate his longtime nemesis Jesse Helms put the kibosh on that.

So there was Weld, stuck back in the corner office on Beacon Hill, having had all his plans for a great escape foiled. So what did he do? He quit anyway! He walked away from the governorship for no good reason.

Is it showing that I don’t have a lot of respect for Weld? Well, never mind that. He may be of suspect character but he’s a formidable politician, a terrific debater and will probably be able to raise the requisite $40 million like falling out of bed.

If Weld wins, he’ll be the first governor of two states since Sam Houston. Sam Houston and Bill Weld – there’s a pair.

Who ever thought those two would be mentioned in the same breath?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Maybe my new number one fan, liberal blogger Bob Brigham, has a point – perhaps I am a “lazy ass reporter.”

As you may recall, the blogging overlords who now effectively control Democratic politics are in the process of developing and imposing a litmus test for Democratic politicians. Paramount on the litmus test’s list of demands is that a proper Democrat should behave as if he “wants to win.”

Now, we all know what this requirement really means: It’s clearly derivative of the tired and ridiculous canard that Democrats lose elections to Republicans because, gosh-darn-it, they’re just too nice. People like the faithful Bill Clinton, the abstemious Ted Kennedy and the entirely sane Howard Dean are just too sweet-natured for their own good. So pure of heart are they, it is simply impossible for them to run a party that could ever be competitive with the hopelessly venal and vicious Republicans.

But let’s take the assertion at face value – that to pass the litmus test a politician has to truly show the fire in the belly, a burning desire to win.

Like good old Al Gore. Seriously. Remember him during the last days of the 2000 campaign, jetting around the country, going 72 hours without sleep and speaking so much that his voice finally gave out? There’s a guy who wanted it.

Then, on the other hand, you have the current darling of the left wing blogosphere, Paul Hackett. Here’s how The New Republic described the candidate’s decidedly non-frantic last days of the Hackett campaign:

“In the end, some people around Hackett wondered if all the attention--stories on ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN, the Times, The Washington Post, not to mention all the blog mania--wasn't spooking him. In the last two days of the election, Hackett skipped several opportunities to battle for a few last votes. Instead of nonstop stumping on Election Day, he took an unscheduled rest at home. And, the night before the election, as Schmidt raced around to diners and ihops, Hackett took in a Bruce Springsteen concert.”

What makes this behavior especially curious is that Springsteen is currently on one of his deadly dull acoustic tours where he scolds his fans for being too loud and for cheering too boisterously. Honestly, I’d rather man a phone bank than endure such an evening.

This New Republic piece came out online on August 4, six whole days before I filed my Standard article. Now granted, The New Republic hasn’t published anything worth reading since it unwisely terminated the gifted and creative Stephen Glass (other than Marty Peretz’s wonderfully spiteful columns on John Kerry, of course). But still, I should have caught it before filing my Standard article especially since it so effectively buttressed my point that Hackett ironically fails the litmus test even though the litmus test was specifically designed to reflect the virtues of Hackett’s “successful” campaign.

And what a cruel irony it is that I missed the TNR article. Do you know how many practically unendurable and unreadable blog postings I slogged through to write that story, just to find out that the best insights were hiding in the relatively prominent New Republic?

But, alas, perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. Because you know who else seems to have missed this little nugget of data? The entire left wing blogosphere. Trust me, you can trawl through all of the liberal blogs, from the vulgar to the extremely vulgar, and you won’t find a single mention of the candidate’s strange pre-election behavior.

Which of course returns us to the original point of my article – the only thing the lefty blogosphere really wants is a heaping helping of Bush hatred. And in that regard at least, Paul Hackett did not let them down.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


When I was in college, I (along with several classmates) had dinner with Dick Thornburg, who at that time was the former governor of Pennsylvania, the future Attorney General of the United States, and the way-in-the-future whitewasher of the Rather-gate affair. At the time of our supping together, Thornburg was in residence at the Kennedy Center for Recovering and Unemployed Politicians, also known in some quarters as Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Like most politicians, Thornburg was an affable and charming individual; we all liked him very much. He also offered a pearl of wisdom for the aspiring politicians amongst us – be aware of your inherent weak points and shore them up. For instance, if you never served in the military go out of your way to show an interest in veteran affairs and be solid on defense. Or if you grew up rich, go out of your way to show a “common touch.”

I found that to be a valuable insight, and not just for politicians. Someone seeking a job can and should employ the exact same approach. An applicant who might be a bit older than the position would typically call for should go out of his way to demonstrate a high energy level. A blue collar worker attempting to move into a white collar environment should to be sure to dress with perfect appropriateness for his interview. Basically, you want to realize what prejudices might be working against you and address them.

So if I were a young left wing blogger, I’d know pretty damn well what prejudices might be working against me and work to show that those prejudices are unfounded. What are those prejudices? I would say the maturity and propriety of left wing bloggers are in question. So if I were writing a left wing blog, I would bend over backwards to not fuel those prejudices and to show that in my case they don’t apply.

THESE THOUGHTS ARE GENERATED BY a response to my Weekly Standard piece by liberal blogger Bob Brigham. As you might remember, the piece was pretty complimentary to Brigham. Here are a few of the things I said about him:

“It would not be overstating matters to say that the blogs, led by Bob Brigham of Swing State Project, put Hackett and the 2nd District race on the metaphorical political map.”

“While the DCCC was still considering the race hopeless, blogger Bob Brigham accurately perceived the effect the Hackett/Schmidt dichotomy would have on the race's dynamics and knew the battle was winnable.”

“Bloggers such as Brigham were more insightful than the pros at the DCCC. If Brigham's influence does expand, he'll deserve it. He understood the situation before anyone else did: If the DCCC had listened to him and poured resources into the race before the 11th hour, it's quite possible that Hackett would have won.”

I bring these things up not to say that Brigham should have liked the column. Quite to the contrary, I would have expected him to hate it even though it praised him and his efforts. The conclusions weren’t as he would have liked, which is as one would expect. It’s rather obvious that the Weekly Standard and the left-wing blogosphere don’t exactly view politics through the same prism.

Now, it could be that my quoting Brigham’s obscenity laced tirade (or rather one of his many obscenity laced tirades) directed at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee bugged him. Or it could be that he was bothered that I didn’t try to interview him. (Just for the record, there was no reason to interview him – his thoughts on all matters pertaining to the column had already been rather colorfully expressed in previous forums.) But whatever the reason, the column seems to have annoyed him.

In reviewing the piece, Brigham began with characteristic eloquence, referring to it as “shitty ass.” Later in his screed, he suggested that James Carville “kiss my ass.” Brigham also had similar counsel for me: “Kiss my ass you lazy fucking reporter, next time pick up the fucking phone before you make a complete ass out of yourself.” As a matter of fact, he chastises me in a similarly delicate manner no fewer than three times for having the audacity to have written the story without seeking out his insights first.

But this is the part that really got me. In the story, I mistakenly wrote that Brigham had called for Rahm Emanuel’s resignation from the DCCC. My exact quote was, “Brigham has responded by repeatedly demanding that DCCC chair Rahm Emmanuel resign.” This was an error on my part, and one I truly regret because it was sloppy and inaccurate. Brigham has in fact repeatedly demanded that Emanuel resign from the DLC, but has never made a similar demand regarding his DCCC chairmanship. At the Standard, we have subsequently published a correction and I’ve emailed Brigham with an apology.

Brigham wrote in response to my erroneous line in the Standard article, “(That) is a total fucking lie that my lawyers will be looking at on Monday.”

While I am impressed that the 20-something Brigham apparently has a team of lawyers (as opposed to just one lawyer like ordinary folk like me) toiling away on his behalf, I’ll save him the billable hours. Without writing a lengthy explanation on libel laws, I’ll just suggest that he not bother bugging them with this. Doubtlessly they’re quite busy with other aspects of his portfolio, anyway.

What I’m not impressed with is how Brigham can’t tell the difference between a mistake and a “fucking lie.” I know his response was just a manifestation of the angry young blogger shtick, but it’s tired. All the obscenities, all the rage – what do Brigham and his ilk think they accomplish? Do they not see how pathetic such antics make them look?

LEFT WING BLOGGERS LIKE BRIGHAM are often guilty of confusing and conflating “straight talk” with vulgar talk. Look, I’m no prude, especially when it comes to coarse language. Those who personally know me, and especially those who have played golf with me, view me as a uniquely unlikely champion for obscenity-free communication.

But politics is different from one’s rec-room or the golf course. There are a bunch of people who find obscenities offensive. In politics (and bloggers like Brigham are in politics), there is no need to gratuitously offend a segment of the voting society with coarse language. And yet Brigham and many of his cohorts insist on writing like they’re politically obsessed Quentin Tarantino characters.

I started this essay by talking about shoring up one’s perceived weaknesses. For left wing bloggers, the doubts they have to overcome is whether they are mature enough and sophisticated enough to take their act public. Some of them seem to know this. Chris Bowers at MyDD is doubtlessly one of the brightest liberal bloggers around, and he eschews a constant stream of obscenities in favor of well thought through and maturely expressed postings.

Bowers is also seeking office, and he’s smart enough to understand all of this. The bigger question is, why aren’t all of them?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Monday, August 15, 2005


I'll be checking in with a real live blog posting tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, here's this courtesy of the Wall Street Journal's evening wrap-up:

For Sale Soon: Clinton's Favorite Music

John Coltrane's "My One and Only Love," David Sanborn's "Harlem Nocturne," Miles Davis's "My Funny Valentine" and other songs will be on an 11-track compilation of former President Clinton's favorite songs. The compilation, called "The Bill Clinton Collection: Selections from the Clinton Music Room," is scheduled for release in about a month. The CD, a joint venture of the Clinton Library and the Clinton Museum Store, will also include "Summertime" by Zoot Sims, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" by Nina Simone and "Chelsea Morning" by Judy Collins. More discs are scheduled to follow.

The mind swims at the comic possibilities presented here. I'll leave them for you to enjoy on your own, except to express my shock at the apparent omission of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."

For the cynical amongst you, I should note that this is 100% on the level, and that this note is verbatim from a Wall Street Journal email, not The Onion.

See you tomorrow.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


very shortly. There should also be a piece on the Standard's website in the next day or so that I think you'll enjoy.

For those who wrote in concerned that my absence was related to my health, my gratitude. For those who didn't, it wasn't. I'm fine, and should remain fine into the foreseeable future. My absence was triggered by other completely unrelated time constraints.

We'll talk soon. Promise.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett